Crossing the Line as Civilization Implodes: Heartland Institute, Peter Gleick and Andrew Revkin

Elizabeth Kolbert: It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.


Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.):  Inaction (“No Policy” — the policy aggressively advanced by most professional disinformers and tacitly accepted by most in the intelligentsia and media — eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic.  Aggressive emissions reductions dramatically improves humanity’s chances.

Humanity is putting its foot on the accelerator even though the world’s top scientists and governments have repeatedly explained we are headed over a cliff. The people who will suffer the most are people who have not contributed to this  impending catastrophe —  future generations and the poorest among us.

This is such a colossally immoral and unethical act —  collectively and in many cases individually — that most people, including the overwhelming majority of the so-called intelligentsia, simply choose to ignore it on a daily basis. That won’t save a livable climate, however, nor it will stop future generations from cursing our names.

And so it is not surprising that many immoral and unethical acts that regularly occur on a far less grand scale are condoned or winked at or simply ignored.

Every day, countless organizations spread misinformation aimed at delaying the action needed to avoid destroying a livable climate, which will cause billions to suffer — and needlessly, since every major independent study makes clear that the cost of action is incredibly low. Many of the disinformers routinely attack and smear climate scientists. Some routinely publish their e-mails, encouraging their readers to cyber-bully scientists who are doing nothing more than trying to inform the world of the consequences of its untenable choices.  But we have become inured to it — heck, there’s a whole TV network devoted to spreading lies — yawn, let’s change the channel to something we like.

The media continues to reduce coverage of the story of the century — “Silence of the Lambs 2: Media Herd’s Coverage of Climate Change Drops Sharply — Again. The three network news stations broadcast 14 climate change stories with a total air time of 32.5 minutes in 2011,  down from 32 stories and 90.5 minutes last year and well below the 2007 peak of 147 segments totaling 386 minutes. This is a stunning collective lapse in judgment by editors and producers. But the media — in a classic act of circular benchmarking — sees everyone else in the media doing it, so the inconceivable becomes an accepted norm.

Many in the media who do cover the story continue to downplay the science or fail to connect the dots, even between extreme heat waves and global warming. Worse, many in the media, including some at New York Times, quote long-debunked disinformers and confusionists who routinely smear climate scientists — people who should have zero credibility.  This is also a collective lapse in judgment that merits multiple apologies and retractions, but it has become the “norm” in journalism. Future generations will marvel at how the once lofty  profession of journalism destroyed its own credibility and misreported the story of the century.

In this sewer of unethical and immoral activity, we all have tough choices, most especially climate scientists, the victims of many of the worst attacks. These modern day Cassandras have become increasingly blunt and outspoken for obvious reasons — they understand best what is likely to happen if we keep listening to the disinformers and their enablers in the media.

Even the formerly reticent Lonnie Thompson explained why he and other climatologists are speaking out: Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” He continues:

That bold statement may seem like hyperbole, but there is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence documenting that the earth is warming, that warming is due largely to human activity, that warming is causing important changes in climate, and that rapid and potentially catastrophic changes in the near future are very possible. This pattern emerges not, as is so often suggested, simply from computer simulations, but from the weight and balance of the empirical evidence as well.

That is simply what the science says, as my review of 50 recent studies makes clear (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

What is a scientist to do in such a casually self-destructive world? The prestigious journal Nature editorialized 2 years ago, “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”

That is all prologue for the events of the last week or so.

As Climate Progress reported earlier this week, Heartland Institute documents revealed plans to dupe children and ruin their future. The AP worked to independently verify the documents and concluded, “The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.”

Subsequently, several climate scientists who “had their emails stolen [in 2009], posted online and grossly misrepresented,” slammed Heartland for spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.” The scientists specifically noted:

In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

You can read Heartland’s reply to similar charges here.

Last night I, and I imagine everyone else, was stunned to learned that Dr. Peter Gleick was the one who put these documents into the public domain. In a Huffington Post piece, he acknowledged “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics,” an assessment I would not disagree with. He then apologized for his mistakes, a move that distinguishes him from Heartland or his critics in the media, like Andrew Revkin, whose too-rapid response to these events certainly crossed the line.

As an important aside, when considering whether the boundary between ethical violation and criminal act has been crossed, we should in all fairness use the Revkin rule. When someone posted on Climate Progress that the Climategate emails were stolen — the assertion made by the University of East Anglia and others — Revkin himself posted:

Just to be clear, no British law enforcement agency has yet said whether a crime has been committed. I have called the Norfolk Constabulary more than once and mum’s still the word.

Seriously! So we’ll just have to wait until some law enforcement agency makes its judgment — and I’m going to make a wild guess that we’ll have a long wait on that.

Here is Gleick’s statement:

At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials; others have and are doing so. I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

Yes, we live in an age where a large fraction of people pretend to be someone they aren’t online, where reporters routinely practice deception, where bloggers and other even pretend to be famous people to get a scoop or embarrass someone.

But Gleick is right that he committed a serious lapse of professional judgment and ethics. He is right to regret his actions and make a personal apology.

When exactly will the Heartland Institute apologize for “spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals”?

And when exactly will Revkin apologize for his various lapses, including his absurd and I think hypocritical response to Gleick’s post?

Here are the key parts of what Revkin wrote:

Now, Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing….

The Heartland Institute had already signaled that it plans to seek charges and civil action against the person who extracted its documents under a false identity….

I won’t speculate on how the legal aspects of this story might play out.

Another question, of course, is who wrote the climate strategy document that Gleick now says was mailed to him. His admitted acts of deception in acquiring the cache of authentic Heartland documents surely will sustain suspicion that he created the summary, which Heartland’s leadership insists is fake.

One way or the other, Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others. (Some of the released documents contain information about Heartland employees that has no bearing on the climate fight.) That is his personal tragedy and shame (and I’m sure devastating for his colleagues, friends and family).

The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the “rational public debate” that he wrote — correctly — is so desperately needed.

I haven’t seen so much nonsense since, well, since I read something from Heartland.

Revkin has ZERO credibility in making these attacks.  Zero.

First off, if one act of this nature could ruin a reputation or destroy his credibility, then what precisely is Revkin doing routinely quoting and citing people who have been repeatedly debunked, the disinformers and confusionists.

Seriously, Revkin — and the NY Times itself — quote all manner of people who simply should have no credibility whatsoever on a regular basis (see “Revkin’s DotEarth hypes disinformation posted on an anti-science website” and “In yet another front-page journalistic lapse, the NY Times once again equates non-scientists — Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) — with climate scientists“).

Revkin smeared Al Gore — equating his science-based talks with George Will’s long-debunked falsehoods — based on the false claims of one of the most debunked people in the blogosphere (see “Yes, the false accusation that Gore was exaggerating came from none other than Roger Pielke, Jr.: And yes, I just re-confirmed with Gore’s office that Pielke is as wrong today in his false claims as he was 2 years ago”).

But Revkin has never retracted his attack or apologized.  And he keeps quoting Pielke (as does the NY Times), even though Pielke’s statements on climate scientists inspire objections from scientists like Ken Caldeira (see here).  Heck, now Pielke brags about the ability to team up with the hard-core anti-science websites and drive traffic to his site. Revkin’s defense is that Pielke  has published articles in the peer-reviewed literature. Gosh, Gleick has published many more articles. So I guess his reputation remains intact for the New York Times.

Revkin himself has made countless mistakes that he has never formally retracted or apologized for [see, for instance, “NYT’s Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation“].

The closest he ever came was his 2009 stunner on NPR: “I’ve made missteps. I’ve made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before. That’s kind of frustrating.”  Yes, the top reporter in the country made missteps and mistakes on the story of the century, but all he can offer up is “That’s kind of frustrating.”

Why haven’t that series of missteps and mistakes destroyed his credibility and ruined his reputation?

Again, Revkin has zero credibility in his statements about Gleick and he should retract them.

Revkin writes, “I won’t speculate on how the legal aspects of this story might play out.” Gosh, he’s happy to say there’s no crime in Climategate until the police weigh in.

He writes, Gleick’s “admitted acts of deception in acquiring the cache of authentic Heartland documents surely will sustain suspicion that he created the summary, which Heartland’s leadership insists is fake.”  Why? Does Revkin have any evidence to back up this “suspicion.” Is he no longer a journalist but just a guy who passes on suspicions from the blogosphere and from an organization known for “spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals”?

To repeat, that sentence is dreadful and should be retracted. Revkin doesn’t even say where the “suspicion” came from or what its basis is. He just repeats it. We used to call that gossip. Now I guess it’s in the New York Times manual.

I’ll have to do a separate blog on the subject but its quite clear that Revkin does not think very much of climate scientists. In a dreadful February 1 column that once again quoted the long-debunked Pielke, he dismisses a letter to the Wall Street Journal from 39 of the leading climate scientists in the world this way:

The reality for most of the signatories of the rebuttal letter is that they are more akin to medical technicians — making sure the thermometers gauging a fever are reliable — and radiologists — interpreting a CT scan — than diagnosticians prescribing the appropriate treatment.

Seriously.  Trenberth, Somerville, Caldeira, Overpeck, Mann, Rignot, Watson — they are just technicians who test whether your hospital thermometer works! No wonder Revkin is so quick to jump on these guys.

What Gleick did was wrong and Gleick not only knows it, he admitted it and apologized, thereby preserving his reputation in a world where everyone makes mistakes, but few admit it.

All of us wait for the same from Heartland and Revkin.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents related to the Heartland Institute. The documents were sent to us from an anonymous source, and the identity of the source was unknown to ThinkProgress at the time. The source later revealed himself on February 20, 2012. Heartland Institute has issued several press releases claiming that one document (“2012 Climate Strategy”) is fake and asserting other claims regarding the other documents. ThinkProgress has taken down the 2012 Climate Strategy document as it works to determine the document’s authenticity.

175 Responses to Crossing the Line as Civilization Implodes: Heartland Institute, Peter Gleick and Andrew Revkin

  1. Gail Zawacki says:

    It’s pathetic that Revkin won’t even let comments through in support of Gleick, but he will allow denier nonsense, including the interpretation that Gleick disgraced himself by fraudulently obtaining the documents. Isn’t the timeline that Gleick received the documents unsolicited, and then obtained verification that they were authentic before he released them?

    In any case it seems a minor transgression compared to actively working to destroy a habitable climate. I posted my comment here since Dot Earth won’t permit it:

    In the end, I think it is a net gain for activists and scientists, because the job of the Heartland Institute is to sow enough doubt about climate change that people feel they can ignore it. Once anyone who isn’t a complete zombie actually looks at the very obvious evidence, the facts speak for themselves.

    So keep threatening and intimidating and stirring up controversy, Heartland. The truth will prevail, let’s just hope it’s not before it’s too late to prevent complete unmitigated catastrophe.

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    The Heartland Institute documents mention Revkin by name — as an ally. An ally in Heartland’s campaign of deceit.

    It’s time to stop pretending that Revkin is merely exhibiting a “lapse in judgment”. He is a deliberate disinformer.

  3. Joe Romm says:

    Heartland asserts that document is fake.

  4. John Tucker says:

    These WERE actual operational policy documents. Not private emails. They demonstrate a conspiracy to mislead.

    That point needs to be made clearly.

    I dont know what Revkin’s logic is here.

  5. Dennis says:

    I’m no lawyer, but Heartland will ultimately not pursue charges, IMHO. With so much of their money coming from their “Anonymous Donor” they won’t risk that any more of their internal documents be made public through discovery, particurly as they continue to claim that the stuff Glieck released is fake. Glieck may be worried because of his actions, but the Heartland Board is worried about losing the “Anonymous Donor,” Bast is worried about his job, the Board is worried about Bast going public with that name if he’s unceremoniously fired, everyone at Heartland is worried about witnesses and documents being supoenaed, etc. etc.

  6. ltr says:

    Andrew Revkin has been snidely referencing climate scientists in his sneaky way since leaving the New York Times as a reporter. Reading his blog is worthless, if the point is learning about climate science.

    Gleick was a fool, but Revkin is worse and never to be trusted.

  7. David Noble says:

    Revkin is off on this one. Bottom line: Whatever one thinks of Gleick’s actions, they have exposed Heartland’s disingenuous campaigns. It will be increasingly difficult for Heartland to gain allies and audiences. That will be a positive consequence of this in the fight against climate change.

  8. John Tucker says:

    Does Gleick discus the summary document elsewhere?

    Revkin’s response to all this is um… kinda, unusual that light.

    All in all – I haven’t followed this much until now- Heartland is hardly a honest and ethical organization in the first-place and whistleblowing has exceptions in practice.

    And on the contrary to Revkin’s point this makes all the more clear for the need to use referenced reviewed science in this debate.

    Any decision that used Heartland affiliated information providers as a basis needs to be publicly investigated and questioned.

  9. ltr says:

    Heck, I need to make it clear that I have no respect for Revkin at all and would never think of reading his blog. To me, Revkin has become an anti-science writer. While a reporter, editors obviously limited Revkin but no more.

  10. Joe Romm says:

    No, it can’t be. Isn’t he the guy who is always criticizing my moderation policy?

  11. dorlomin says:

    Anyone want to see the webdesign skills Heartland were paying $88 000 for? Watts runs an electric car dearlership or claims too.

    Here is the companies webpage.

    I am just in awe at the skillset and clearly Heartland are getting their moneys worth ;-)

    Anyway well done of Glieck for exposing Bob Carter as being just a PR funded shill. This is the biggest fish of this batch as he is quite important in Australia and on a regular check not just hired for his web design skills.

  12. Solar Jim says:

    Thank you Joe and thanks to Peter Gleick.

    I would like to make a small recommendation on language. RE: “every major independent study makes clear that the cost of action is incredibly low.” This can also be stated as “the benefit of action is incredibly high.”

    It actually seems to be akin to turning the economic wheel before the ships of state sink from impact. Yet, something is preventing the commonweal from turning (away from clear and present danger).

  13. catman306 says:

    A perfect post and comments, thanks Joe and everyone.
    And thank you, Peter Glieck, the truth is getting to be risky territory. Why is that?

  14. Andy Olsen says:

    Ga! This is galling! Heartland routinely engages in deceptive practices, disseminating lies and so forth. But they are painted as victims in the press and get a pass.

    The end result is the same as when the emails were stolen at East Anglia, Vancouver and elsewhere: corrupt practices by the climate denier industry are brushed aside and investigative resources are focused on climate scientists!!

    The Heartland Institute should be investigated for abusing their 501(c)(3) status to help Scott Walker win his re-election in their “Operation Angry Badger.” The explicitly address the recall ELECTION and describe the Angry Badger goal as to consolidate the gains they have won in that election.

    We need more pushback now to demand an investigation of Heartland as well as of the filched emails at East Anglia and elsewhere. Interpol should be brought in on this case and the resources for the investigation should EXCEED resources used to investigate and harass climate scientists.

    And, Operation Angry Badger is a propaganda effort aimed at attacking school teachers and public education. They are beating up on school teachers to help a corrupt pol win election.

    We live in some really corrupt times. Really, when we see the advantage constantly go to the corrupt and the liars in these debates and when the stakes are so high, why pile on Mr Gleick? What he did is very understandable and excusable.

  15. A key point that continues to bug me is the actual origin of the fake “2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” memo.

    Ross Kaminsky (who has ties to The Heartland Institute) was speculating as early as Friday of last week in a blog post at The American Spectator’s site that Gleick was the leaker of the memos. Kaminsky wrote a blog post yesterday congratulating himself on having been right about that, and wrote in that post about how Gleick “still has not admitted to being the author of the forged document that has caused most of the controversy.” Dr. Judith Curry writes on her blog, “I seem to have gotten his [Gleick’s] goat to have been mentioned in the fake Heartland strategy doc (hard to believe that he didn’t write this).”

    This is the part I’m having a hard time figuring out.

    In Gleick’s confession, he says he first received the strategy memo anonymously, then obtained the legitimate documents by deceiving Heartland. Then, since the documents seemed to be more or less consistent, he leaked them all. Heartland’s defenders seem to be suggesting a different timeline, in which Gleick first obtained the legitimate documents, then forged the strategy document using the information contained in them.

    This doesn’t make sense to me, though. If he already had the legitimate documents, why would he risk undercutting their impact by also releasing the forged strategy memo? There’s nothing substantive in the strategy memo that isn’t also in the legitimate documents. So why add the forged document to the mix? It would just be handing Heartland a convenient way to take the moral high ground (since they would immediately know the document was fake and identify it as such, as actually happened).

    If Gleick is telling the truth about the sequence of events, though, his inclusion of the forged memo makes more sense: He included it in the release because he didn’t know it was fake. The legitimate documents he obtained from Heartland seemed to confirm the details in the strategy memo, so he assumed the strategy memo was legitimate. But this scenario has a problem that bothers me, too: Who forged the strategy memo and supplied it to Gleick?

    The details in the strategy memo show that whoever forged it had access to internal Heartland budget and planning information. So I guess we can go back to the original speculation from last week about a disgruntled insider, former employee, or Heartland board member. But here again, things don’t quite match up. If someone with access to the real Heartland budget documents wanted to discredit the organization, why not leak those documents to Gleick? Instead, this hypothetical insider appears to have used the information in the real documents to forge a credible-sounding, but demonstrably fake, summary, and supplied that to Gleick. Why would the forger do that? What purpose could be served by leaking Gleick a document that could be easily denounced as a fake by Heartland, when the insider could just as easily leak the real thing?

    In Kaminsky’s prescient post speculating that Gleick might be the leaker, he pointed out the similarity of this incident to that of the forged “Killian documents” that brought down Dan Rather. He’s right: the similarities between the two cases are striking. Many people said at the time of that earlier incident that Rather (or his producer Mary Mapes) must have forged the Killiam documents, just as Heartland’s defenders are now saying that Gleick probably forged the Heartland strategy memo. To me, though, that’s reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s phrase about giving the accused “credit for having too much imagination and too little.”

  16. Dick Smith says:

    Excellent points. Thanks.

  17. Dick Smith says:

    You literally took the words right out of my mouth. Agree 100%.

  18. Sou says:

    John, I was just about to ask the same question. You put the question succinctly and in the right context.

    I hope there is an answer – certainly an investigation and an attempt to get the answer.

    It certainly looks as if either:

    a) Peter Gleick was set up by someone inside Heartland – not implausible at all.

    b) the first document is real, but no-one wants to admit to it – just as plausible, if not more so.

    Is there a very good investigative journalist in the house?

    And thank you Joe for the excellent and thoughtful article. I know that Dr Gleick is sorry for what he did. I’m sorry for Peter.

    But these documents should be available publicly in any case. Why shouldn’t the public have access to detailed information about how funds are spent by organisations that get public funds in effect through their tax status. The public should also know who is funding Heartland. It shouldn’t have to rely on some investigative sleuthing.

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for the Heartland Institute. As for Andy Revkin – he hasn’t changed his spots, has he.

  19. Ben Lieberman says:

    Right now, it is possible to be seen as a serious and responsible person while either denying or minimizing the risks of global warming. Such a person can still get a great job, speaking gigs, and get invited to dinner parties. The fact that such a person either denies climate change or vastly minimizes the risks is equivalent to a small matter of personal taste: he or she is a great person, but has this odd habit of wearing spats. It’s time to take away that ‘pass’ where one can watch humanity hurtle toward destruction, advocate passivity and still get treated as a very important person.

  20. Toby says:

    Fair play to Peter Gleick.

    He was taken a fall in a good cause. I am not sure if he overdid matters, or consciously put himself out there to take the rap, in order to expose Heartland.

    Ball is in Heartland’s court – will they sue him for “forging” the document?

  21. SecularAnimist says:

    Unless I have missed something, we don’t know for a fact that the “strategy memo” that Gleick says he received from an anonymous source is a forgery. All we know is that Heartland claims it is a forgery.

    Given that the Heartland Institute’s business is lying, I see no reason to take their word for it.

    Heartland would probably like to claim that all the leaked documents are forgeries. But since they themselves sent those documents to Gleick, and he can prove that they did so, they can’t make that claim.

  22. MikeB says:

    Gleick’s only mistake so far has been to apologise (I note that a DailyKos dairy has pretty much that as a title). What did he do wrong?

    He was sent a document (which he then presumably disguised to hide who exactly it came from), and the followed up by obatining other documents(which support the first)directly from the organisation in question. Was it underhand? Yes. Ethically a grey area. Probably. But its little different to how many investigative reports work at times. Indeed, if Andy Revkin had the stones to do something like this, we would be applauding him.

    The documents reveal how an organisation purporting to be a charity is anything but, is getting money from tobacco sources to fund campaigns, is also getting cash froma wide range of well-known businesses in order to lobby/PR on their behalf, is seeking to prevent children being taught science, and that various ‘experts’ are actually being paid off, and showing them to be liars.

    John Mashey did a great job with what was publically available, but these documents help to show exactly what Heartland is all about to a wider public.

    Thats investigative journalism, and a civic duty. He should be proud. To apoligise makes him sound like a villian, rather than the hero that he is.
    I’m glad that UCS and Naomi Klein have already come out in support, and hopefully there will be many others.

    We must make sure that Revkin and any other prissy commentators are in no doubt how we feel, and stiffen the backbone of those who are more shocked at how the documents were obtained than what they contain

  23. Steve Chapple says:

    “What Gleick did was wrong and Gleick not only knows it, he admitted it and apologized, thereby preserving his reputation in a world where everyone makes mistakes, but few admit it.”

    Deeply gloomy that those on “my side” are willing to bend over backwards to spin this as a win. You have a very strange definition of “preserving his reputation”, Joe.

  24. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Heartland’s goals are to spread deception, that can actually result in physical suffering. Gleick’s goal was to show hidden truth, by uncovering the plans of the deceivers. I wouldn’t recommend his actions, but lets take a step back and look at the ethical big picture. There is Heartland’s crime and Gleick’s misdemeanor. Gleick’s transgression was real, but it was more on the order of Tim DeChristopher’s civil disobedience.

    And to Andy Revkin: this hasn’t undermined anything. One cannot undermine physics.

  25. Joe Romm says:

    Not sure what you mean by “my side.” There’s science and then there’s everything else.

    Not at all sure what you mean “bend over backwards to spin this as a win.” You obviously aren’t talking about this post, so links to the posts you are talking about might be useful.

    I think I have been crystal clear about my definition. We live in a world where people seem to be able to maintain their reputation even though they do nothing but spread misinformation under regular basis and attack climate scientists. So I stand by my statement. The overwhelming majority of the people who attacked climate scientists before this and who attack them now lack standing to do so.

  26. bjedwards says:

    If the “climate strategy” document came from within HI, there is no way the person who sent it to Peter Gleick would know what Peter would do with it, or that Peter would subsequently be able to obtain subsequent documents that confirm much of the information in the CS document. One could presume a legitimate “whistleblower” would assume his/her document would be the only thing Peter would have to go on.

    Apart from the other documents confirming the legitimacy of much of the information in the CS document, I would tend to agree that the internal memo “style” in which the info is presented is fake. I agree with Megan McArdle that, “There’s no name, date, or identifying information in the memo…” A confidential memo distributed within a small group would necessarily identify by name those others who shoud see it, not just an undidentified “subset” of individuals.

    Would a legitimate whistleblower or someone within HI trying to set up Gleick create a document with accurate information but misrepresenting the presentation of that information as if it were a legitimate internal memo? Maybe.

    In a way, I think it’s too bad Peter Gleick had not posted the CS document when he received it, including the postmark info, just stating “here’s what I got in the mail.” Or at least he should have passed it on to others behind the scenes to discuss it.

    What I think is puzzling is what I wrote in a comment over at Desmogblog:

    “In all of this hoorah Joe Bast’s reaction, both public and through e-mail responses, seems way over-the-top for someone who one would think would want to reassure and maintain high-giving donors. If I were Microsoft, for instance, Bast’s public reactions would have me sever ties with Heartland faster than a speeding bullet, far more so than the document revelations.

    “The content and tone of Bast’s reactions are more directed to the denialist rank and file, more like a copy-and-paste of Marc Morano’s propaganda and conspiracy mongering. Could Heartland’s Board of Directors really approve of Bast’s approach, particularly in the sensitive situation it now finds itself with previous donors given the public revelations of the donors’ names? Or is Bast out of control and/or the Board incompetent. It seems completely self-defeating to me.”

  27. M Tucker says:

    Peter Gleick made a mistake but his transgression does not compare with Heartland’s dedicated effort to discredit the science. Thank you Peter! I am proud of your action no matter how wrong it may have been and I am proud you have made a public apology.

    As for Revkin, he is a complete waste of time; nothing more than a mouthpiece for the anti-science crowd who is forutante enough to get space in the Times.

  28. jean says:

    I looked up Peter Gleick on Wickipedia:On February 20, 2012, Gleick issued a statement in the Huffington Post explaining that he had received an anonymous document in the mail that seemed to contain details on the climate program strategy of The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank. He admitted to soliciting and receiving additional material from the Institute “under someone else’s name,” calling his actions “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics.”[17] [18] Andrew Revkin wrote at the New York Times that “Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins … ” [19}I hope some one edits it

  29. john tucker says:

    Three things that also need to be taken in when evaluating the ethics of the situation that become vitally important when considering intent:

    1. Unlike “climategate” there was no science to verify the truthfulness of the allegations before releasing the memos. He had legitimate reason to believe the deceit was real.(in climategate it looks as if the perps held on to them for a month at least looking for something but were unable to find verification and released them anyway)

    2. He did not seek to individually profit from the deception or release.

    3. He admitted his role.

    Dr Gleick and others can continue to beat themselves up over this, but I think if you technically evaluate the situation and circumstances there is a rather strong ethical argument for how Gleick acted.

    A rather solid one too.

  30. Sasparilla says:

    Well written article and analysis Joe, thank you.

  31. FatherTheo says:

    I have only one thing to say about the “controversy” of releasing these Heartland Institute emails: Thank you, Peter Gleick.

    I care a lot more for the lives my children and grandchildren are going to live than the privacy of the corporations who are plotting against their interests.

  32. Bill Frank says:

    “The three network news stations broadcast 14 climate change stories with a total air time of 32.5 minutes in 2011, down from 32 stories and 90.5 minutes last year and well below the 2007 peak of 147 segments totaling 386 minutes. This is a stunning collective lapse in judgment by editors and producers.”

    Joe, I believe calling this a “lapse in judgment” is being way too kind. The corporate controlled media filters out serious coverage of climate change intentionally because to do otherwise would be acting against their own interests. Don’t let them off the hook. These “journalists” should be exposed for what they really are, mouthpieces for their respective corporate masters. They do not serve the public interest!

  33. Gestur says:

    I’m not an ethicist by training and so I’m not comfortable saying what Peter Gleick did was or wasn’t an ethical lapse. I’m comfortable saying it was under-handed, and that’s as far as I’m willing to go toward any ethical judgment.

    What I am willing to say is that what Peter Gleick did was a profoundly moral thing to have done. I can only hope that if I were presented with the same opportunity he had that I would have the courage to do what he did.

    If he does come under any legal action from Heartland from his act, I hope a legal defense fund is quickly established and publicized. I’ll be making a payment to it to show him where at least I stand on this.

  34. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Remember the FRONTLINE documentary where even ExxonMobil was embarrassed enough to disavow their relationship with Heartland? Here is the 2 min. clip.

  35. Doug350 says:

    Hear hear … my thought from square one.

  36. Mike says:

    Evil men laugh when a good man stumbles.

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It has been plain, in my mind (such as it is) at least, for years, that this is the Final Conflict. Not ‘Armageddon’, ‘the Apocaplypse’ or some other phantasm of our fundamentalist fellow primates, but the battle between absolute evil (and what, really could be more evil than wiping out humanity in the pursuit of money and power?)and common humanity.
    The underlying reality, to my mind, one that not many people seem prepared to face, is that this calamity, one of numerous ecological disasters, has been caused by a human invention that has run amok, and dominates human society globally. That creation is the totalitarian ideology, (for its fanatic adherents it is a quasi-religion or cult)of market fundamentalist capitalism.
    Capitalism operates, in my opinion, according to a simple operating principle. Everything must be turned into money, from exploited and hyper-exploited human labour to vast forests, fisheries, mineral resources etc, all of which will be turned into money, no matter what the consequences. To maintain itself, capitalism and its cats-paws, the politicians who are now more tightly controlled by the money power than ever in history, will destroy anything that stands in the way of its supreme priority-profit maximisation. Destruction of climate stability means nothing besides a ten per cent return on capital.
    And, it follows inevitably, such a system empowers and promotes a human type which displays personal moral and psychological features akin to the system that promotes and grossly over-rewards them. Insatiable greed and egomania, of course, a belief in their innate superiority. Complete indifference to the fate of others-in fact an active lust to do others down, and profit from their loss. Unscrupulousness, lack of conscience or a sense of shame, ready resort to violence and intimidation to get their way etc, etc.
    One or two more decades of capitalism running unrestrained spells mass death-there cannot be any doubt any more. Yet the prevaricators, the opportunists, the obfuscators still preach that capitalism can be ‘civilized’ and turned to human welfare, rather than its destruction. Naturally they are rewarded for this spreading of confusion, financially and with ego-stroking and privileged access to the money power’s MSM propaganda apparatus. Unfortunately that message is a lie. Capitalism, like cancer, must always grow, or collapse into necrosis, if only to pay compound interest, let alone to satisfy the Masters’ ever-growing greed. And despite the waffle of another branch of the confusion industry, the techno-optimists, infinite growth on a finite planet spells disaster.
    Unfortunately the publics of the West have been so relentlessly brainwashed throughout life by the capitalist MSM that they seem unable to conceive of life without capitalism, without inequality, without bullying billionaire plutocrats, without democracy that is a total sham, without increasingly precarious work-lives of growing intensity and dwindling reward and without mindless consumption as the prime raison d’etre for human society. We have been brainwashed to look forward to our own destruction. Still, the Greeks are learning the awful truth, bitterly and too late.

  38. Clive Hamilton says:

    Any transgression by Peter Gleick was trivial compared to the moral cesspit he has exposed at the Heartland Institute. I applaud him for uncovering material that is vital to public understanding. The world is a better place for what he has done.

  39. Arne Perschel says:


  40. David Lewis says:

    The problem with the way Revkin writes about climate change goes far deeper than the deeply conflicting concepts that crash around inside his head.

    Last year, September 2011 he won, for the second time, the National Academies “Communication Award” “jointly bestowed by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institutes of Medicine”, for “excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering and medicine to the general public”. He bragged that he had won this award when he came under fire from David Roberts of Grist recently.

    What does it matter that a lot of people who have a deep understanding of climate science who care that civilization responds find themselves revolted, often, by what Revkin writes these days? He comforts himself publicly saying the NAS just handed him another big prize, which his university employer describes as the “most prestigious award in science journalism”. [snip]

    It was total BS handed out by people who were not fully aware of what was going on.

    Revkin’s line is that there is no point to describing how serious the situation is and calling out to people to take adequate action, because people won’t respond. At that point he descends into gibberish as he tells people he is optimistic that inadequate action can somehow “sustain the human adventure”.

    What he means is the sh*t isn’t going to hit the fan until he’s dead.

    Instead of ignoring him as what he is, someone who must be swept away as people start to organize and take action, the NAS hands him a prize.

  41. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s a priori logic. You know, where you have a pre-ordained position, arguing for which will bring rewards, and you argue backwards to achieve the desired result. Sophistry, casuistry, dissembling-there are many time-honoured techniques available. These days the practitioners need not even be too gifted at rhetorical or logical sleights of hand, the MSM propaganda system being so well trained and policed that logical inconsistencies, non-sequiturs or even plain imbecilities (let alone complete inventions) will pass by, unmolested. In the propaganda system the essential requirement is to be ‘on message’ with the money power, and ‘Heartland’ is nothing if not the money power in action.

  42. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What is needed are legal actions against ‘Heartland’ et al, as were launched against the tobacco industry. The subpoenaing of tobacco industry records (despite huge destruction by the industry of incriminating documents, under the Orwellian rubric of ‘Document Retention’)revealed tremendous wrong-doing and the network of paid disinformers, and, in my opinion, a similar revelation concerning the climate denialist industry could be game-changing. These creatures must be actively resisted and harried with every legal weapon available.

  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And did not Carter come cheap? I wonder what rules his University has regarding such plain conflicts of interest.

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The common weal was abolished some time ago, as being ‘socialistic’. We are now ruled by vicious sadists (witness the crucifixion of Greece, and the rampage of UK Tories targeting the weakest)in the employ of ruthless plutocrats.

  45. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Precisely-the MSM as usual, takes the word of recidivist liars as gospel, yet ignores the series of investigations totally exonerating UEA over any malpractise concerning the ‘Climategate’ stolen e-mails. As always, a complete bias, and total inversion of reality, in the service of the money power.

  46. Robert says:

    So here’s my understanding:

    1. Gleick receives information about Hearland, sent to him anonymously and unsolicited.
    2. Gleick attempts to verify the veracity of this information — deceiving Heartland as to his identity in order to get them to send him the information.
    3. The information Heartland sends him confirms the veracity of the materials received from Anonymous, and so he releases the information — which details Heartland’s despicable shennanigans.

    Would it have been better for Gleick to be above board from the get go? Yes, absolutely. Did he misrepresent anything here, other than his own identity — say, for instance, scientific findings? No.

    The only people who come out smelling in this mud fight are Heartland and Revkin, in my view. Gleick should sleep just fine…

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Precisely. Such creatures are imbeciles, ignoramuses or something far worse.

  48. Al says:

    The information revealed by Gleick is clearly in the public interest.

    This is the first clear, unambiguous proof that there is a concerted, planned and funded campaign to discredit science for the benefit of organisations protecting their bottom line.

    I hope this story persists because the public need to be reminded they are being hoodwinked by big businesses which do not have their interests at heart.

    As a former editor, I consider it an embarrassment to the craft that a scientist had to bring this into the light when investigative journalists should have arrived at this point long ago.

  49. Richard Miller says:

    It is pretty outrageous that Revkin got the award from the National Academies of Science. How is that possible with all the blunders he has made and continues to make?

  50. Peter says:

    Where is Andrew Revkin when we need him? Volunteering for the Rick Santorum campaign for President.

    A Civilization can go by in a flash-

  51. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Concern troll alert.

  52. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A lot of this conversation seems, to my eyes, inane and some plain disingenuous. When dealing with creatures that we know are lying, misrepresenting, distorting and deliberately confusing in order to pursue money at the expense of all living things on the planet, there are no ‘gentleman’s rules’. This, in case we have forgotten, is a fight to avert mass death on an unprecedented scale.

  53. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well said, Bill. No ‘lapse of judgment’ here, but cold, calculated, service to power.

  54. Thorn says:

    So Heartland apparently wants to file charges against Peter Gleick for deceptively accessing their deceptive plans? Gleick may have hurt his reputation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he did the wrong thing.

  55. Joe Romm says:

    Guess we will find out.

  56. MikeB says:

    Because Revkin is (in the words of his fellow NYT contributor, Paul Krugman), a ‘Very Serious Person’. He writes middle-of-the-way nonsense, which makes him lauded as a ‘centrist hero’ (again, a Krugman phrase). In reality, he’s simply a tool.

    You really have to be an idiot to have an attack of the vapours over Gleicks action, and say little about Heartland’s MO.

    Heartland didn’t really need to recruit him as a friend. His style and attitude was far more useful to them as it was – he could pretend to be neutral (in the worst meaning of the term), and they could say that supported their position. Its really kind of sad. FUD, and not a penny needed to be paid.

  57. PeterW says:

    I’m sorry but this is so stupid, Peter Gleick is a damn hero. Is this some sort of tea party and we’re all playing Miss Manners? Once again spin is winning the day because everyone on the side of facts and science is suppose to play nice with people who are playing with the lives of billions and most of the species on this planet. Get real, this is a war. Do you think Churchill would pussyfoot around like this!!

  58. PeterW says:

    Sorry that wasn’t suppose to be a reply. It was suppose to be a stand alone comment.

  59. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They won’t pursue it. The last thing they would want to do is end up in court, with the defense subpoenaing relevant documents.

  60. Gail Zawacki says:

    It’s worth reading this report released today from Blue Planet recipients – Hansen and Solomon and Lovelock, Stern, Ehrlich plus several equally distinguished others:

    which starkly warns in, well, thinly veiled panic the danger to humanity and the vast majority of other species in continuing unsustainable practices – and then espouses a rather forlorn plea for justice on many levels… to this ominous comment at Col. Wamsley’s blog, from a denier who starkly nails it:

    “You are a traitor to your own country. I did not spend 30 years in the military to protect the likes of you.”


    Because foreign developing nations are licking their chops at the thought of the US signing onto a global climate treaty because they’ll get enriched from the vast transfer of our wealth to their countries (via schemes like REDD, cap-and-trade, CDM, etc.), and our economy will then be controlled by natural resource management via the UN or some other global supra-national agency.

    The end goal here is to lower the standard of living of the US and to force us (and other developed Western style nations) to use less natural resources so that the rest of the world can use those resources to build up their economies so that at some point in the future, all nations have roughly the same standard of living and per-capita GDP. Unfortunately, in this future scenario should it occur, the US isn’t going to have anywhere as near high as GDP as we do today because it would take the natural resources of over 5 Earth’s to provide everybody on the Earth today with the resources needed to have the same standard of living as we have in the US. Our future US economy will be one of very little resource use and hence, a very basic and simple lifestyle.

  61. John Tucker says:

    Exactly! Indeed better than most of us.

  62. Jan says:

    BP destroyed the Gulf of Mexico yet still makes billions in profits while getting a slap on the wrist. And people want to talk about ethics? While what Dr. Gleick did was ethically questionable, when you consider the consequences organizations like the Heartland Institute are leading this world to by their deliberate deceptions for profit and ideology I can understand why he would feel the urgency to do this. Real people have died as a result of the effects of the drought and extreme weather we are experiencing. Agriculture and water globally are also at risk. Just how long are we supposed to allow these interests to continue being accomplices in this without holding them accountable? BTW, have the hackers of the East Anglia e-mails been brought to justice? Last I knew that was a crime. I have ambivalent feelings towards Dr. Gleick because of this, but again, I understand what would drive him to do this by hiding his identity. Civilization is on the line. Satyagraha.

  63. John Tucker says:

    Just one name – James O’Keefe.

    I look forward to more disclosures.

    If the right finds it would like to move to a more reasonable science based discussion then it needs to say so and respect that type of forum. Thats always been the option.

    If the NYT and “science reporters” would have done their jobs from the beginning we wouldn’t be in this position.

    Not knowing the difference between politics and science is their failure.

    This whole line of reasoning echoes their Iraq war triangulation and reporting incompetence, along with their weird “should we report the truth” editorials.

  64. Robert says:

    I remain adamant that, unless I’m missing something here, Gleick has nothing to be ashamed about. I see no need for apology. In the world of investigative journalism, this would have been just fine. But in the absence of investigative journalists, a scientist took a moral and ethical decision to release materials in the public interest, after taking substantial efforts to verify its authenticity…

  65. John Tucker says:

    I dont know what “your side” is but science is not a political argument. Its not an ethical one for that matter specifically either, although if its made completely and reasonably also within the scope of all the social sciences it becomes inherently honest, fair and ethical.

  66. Robert says:

    Having spent much of the past five years debunking Heartland rubbish, line by line, I simply assume anything they say publicly is, a priori, a lie.

  67. Robert says:


  68. Thanks for this excellent post Joe. Peter Gleick is a hero.

  69. EmuBob says:

    Peter Gleick is clearly conflicted about his actions but I regard his actions not only as entirely ethical but also praiseworthy.
    In the first place, his motive was altruistic. He did not act out of self-interest – quite the opposite. He would have known that there could be a significant personal cost. Second, he was justified, by the weight of scientific evidence for AGW, in believing that the consequences of his action in exposing the deceit of the deniers could only be to the benefit of humanity.

    In delaying action to halt the burning of fossil fuels, the deniers (and let us stop using the term skeptic – this is now only an inapt politeness) are deliberately putting at risk the lives of millions of people around the world.
    Like many other scientists, who by speaking out expose themselves to the vicious attacks of the cowards hiding in board rooms through their hired thugs, Peter has made a courageous personal sacrifice for the greater good. To me these scientists are the heroes of our age.

  70. Mike 22 says:

    Gleick obtained vital information through dishonest means, and published. Everything else is above board.

    Hero, in my book.

  71. John Tucker says:

    hey it works well as both!

  72. climatehawk1 says:

    Marvelous paragraph on Richard Lindzen in WaPo: “Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has questioned whether climate change will cause effects as severe as some predict, said he has been struck by ‘the viciousness’ of his opponents. But Lindzen feels obligated to keep questioning what Gleick and others say about climate change impact ‘because they’re lies, it’s that simple. What would you do if people were truly misrepresenting things, and it has consequences for society?'” Thanks for yet another surreal moment, Ms. Eilperin.

  73. Laurie Dougherty says:

    I also wrote a response for Dot Earth was tied up all day and comments were closed by the time I tried. (I was a once frequent commenter on Dot Earth, an early fan but over time increasingly critical of Andy’s fiddling on the fence while the world burns mentality until I plumb ran out of head vises and dropped off.) But today I wanted to say this:
    Peter Gleick did a deceptive, probably illegal thing. He had the guts and decency to own up to it and apologize, knowing the likely consequences.

    What Gleick did pales in comparison to the persistent deception, misinformation, misrepresentation, harrassment and character assassination carried out by the fossil fuel industry and its right-wing minions. When have they ever admitted error or wrongdoing or apologized for the harm they are perpetuating on the earth and its inhabitants? When did whoever hacked or leaked or stole the Climategate emails ever have the guts or decency to own up to it? When has Andy Revkin ever called shame on those “organizations and individuals casting doubt on the seriousness of greenhouse-driven climate change” for poisoning the discourse on climate change instead of treating them as just another source or sound bite?

  74. Robert says:

    What do you perceive as “probably illegal” in Gleick’s actions?

  75. climatehawk1 says:

    Agreed. There is another climate blogger out there I won’t name, who says Heartland’s reaction (flooding the zone with threatening letters) has failed to show “grace under pressure.” Boy, now there is a shocker.

  76. Mossy says:

    We’re fiddling while Rome burns. Peter is a true hero. What I don’t understand is why everyone isn’t singing his praises, applauding him, and awarding him a climate hero award. Desperate times require desperate measures, and we all need to think outside the box.

    We should all be attempting to disseminate the information Peter secured, and urging the MSM, national magazines like Time and Newsweek to cover it, and certainly liberal shows like Rachel Maddow. This needs to get as much attention as Climategate, highlighting Heartland’s despicable agenda.

    Instead, we chatter on and on about the morality of his actions. For heaven’s sake, people, wake up. The fossil fuel industry is destroying a liveable planet and very little time remains to turn the corner. The great immorality is the Heartland’s actions. I don’t think Peter should have apologized, nor should you have done anything but applaud him, Joe.

  77. Mike says:

    In judging Gleick’s actions we have to ask, what could he have done differently? Ignoring the email he received would not have been good. Finding out about its legitimacy was important. Publishing it straight away would enable Heartland to do a cover up. But what he could have done is given the document to a reputable reporter who would know how to dig further within the bounds of journalistic ethics. Of course hindsight is 20/20 as they say. Gleick erred in trying to do a job he was not trained for. I don’t say this to skewer him – he is a good man who made a mistake. But it is important to learn whatever lessons we can form this incident.

  78. Joe Romm says:

    He says it was an envelope, not an email.

  79. Mike says:

    Thanks. Your journalistic experience is invaluable. And “form” should have been “from”.

  80. Solar Jim says:

    Yes Mulga, ruthless ecocidal belligerent plutocrats who are publicly subsidized to the tune of a trillion dollars per year in globalized mammon, unlimited carbonic acid contamination of the common ecosphere, production of radiological poisons for public ownership, and wars for oil and oil for war. Fossil fools all.

  81. Joe this posting is one of your best. Thanks so much.

  82. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s true, and inescapable, that the standards of living of the human population must be equalised, and those that have the most must sacrifice the most. The refusal to contemplate that means global war. However, in the USA, (as in most of the poor world) where wealth is so unequally distributed, this mostly means that the hideously over-endowed must share their loot with others-either that or wipe them out. I suppose I’ve just outlined the more probable response of the global parasite class. In fact I’ve felt for a good while that these creatures actually see ecological collapse as an opportunity to engineer a great Malthusian cull of billions of ‘useless eaters’ that they fear and despise. Forgive my paranoia, but I see incidents like the US Government financed research into making H5N1 bird ‘flu, with its horrific fatality rate of c.60% in humans, transmissible between people, as sinister straws in the wind.

  83. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Why do we allow them to get away with it? We sit and moan as they act to destroy everything we hold dear.

  84. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I agree! This is a war for humanity’s soul and its survival, and only one side, the blackest of black hats, are fighting. And the forces of decency, humanity and reason are self-flagellating over this? We let the (expletives deleted) write the rules and set the parameters. Madness! Why the blazes apologise for revealing the truth, by any means available.

  85. Leif says:

    I echo all the supportive statements by those above for Peter Gleick. The wrong righted far out weigh the rights wronged. In my view it would be unethical to do anything else. I suspicion, as others stated clearly, that Heartland was complicate in the “forgery” in the first place as a rear guard action to cover their a** and did not realize the second request was collaborating the false first mailing. That way they could call out the forgery and the rest would disappear in a rat hole, and another scientist would be holding the bag. Survival of the species out weigh the rights of the immoral. Once outed they had no alternative but to double down and hope for a fold.

  86. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly. Gleick should be proud of what he did (if he did anything shady) and promise to do it again, to reveal the truth about these ghouls.

  87. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A little master class in reality inversion and the crudest projection of one’s own faults onto others. These creatures really are loathsome, and any reaction to their behaviour but hatred and disgust seems, to me, to be most foolish.

  88. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Very well said, Mossy. The denialist industry, in my opinion, is the most evil and destructive enterprise in human history.

  89. Annie says:

    The climate deniers are not people one can discuss climate change with in any rational or logical manner. It’s so disappointing that they continue to misinform even lie about the agreed science. They are too fundamental and like most fundamentals they are right and everyone else is wrong. I enjoyed your piece very much and hope that all climate deniers see the reality sooner rather than later.

  90. gasman says:

    I have come to really enjoy reading Dr. Gleick’s articles of late. I hope this event will not damage him significantly. Yet with the money and power on the denier side, I would not be surprised if he is pummeled in the media. Historically any climate change proponent with ANY vulnerability(such as Gore, Hansen, Mann, Hayhoe etc) is trashed by the right wing to the point that it is picked up by the mainstream media and considered reasonable.

  91. Tom King says:

    At the risk of offending someone… It is a war out there. If your side is losing the war and defeat means the end of civilization, does it make any sense to worry about “a serious lapse of … professional judgment and ethics,” Its not as if he firebombed a city. No one was hurt – just the reputation of an organization that didn’t deserve to have a reputation. If anything, perhaps his actions will even save lives.

  92. papertiger says:

    Well sure when you put it that way. Lying, cheating, theft? It’s a small matter when civilization is at stake.

  93. Andy Revkin says:

    It’s time to call out Gavin Schmidt for having “zero credibility,” as well, Joe (as per his reply to a RealClimate comment on Gleick and Heartland):

    Gleick’s actions were completely irresponsible and while the information uncovered was interesting (if unsurprising), it in no way justified his actions. There is an integrity required to do science (and talk about it credibly), and he has unfortunately failed this test. The public discussion on this issue will be much the poorer for this – both directly because this event is (yet) another reason not to have a serious discussion, but also indirectly because his voice as an advocate of science, once powerful, has now been diminished. – gavin]

  94. R. Shamel says:

    Yes, excellent indeed. But a few additional points are worth making.

    As noted above, “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”

    Gleick was acknowledging and exposing the street fight, and is a hero for doing so. Besides Hansen and several others, he should get a medal of honor.

    Meanwhile, much of the commentary above and below, with all due respect, makes it sound like we’re judging a damn fencing match.

    It’s not a civilized fight. It’s an all-out battle for the survival of a livable climate for billions of humans on a brand new planet Eaarth, as aptly named by Bill McKibben. The sooner we ‘nice’ people take off our rose colored glasses, and our gloves, the better.

    Many of us are still, understandably, in denial. None of us really want to believe that we’re on track to self-destruct. We’d like to think that people wearing nice suits at places such as the all-American-sounding Heartland Institute, are “good guys.”

    Wake up, folks! Gangsters and Wall Street criminals wear nice suits too. People who selfishly sacrifice others to augment their own wealth and power have always been reviled by civilized people.

    In fact, our repulsion by evil actions is often in proportion to the number of victims of the action. How many were killed in Nazi Germany? How many lives are being lost, or are at stake in the future, because of the stream of lies perpetrated by all of those involved with the HI’s doings? Billions!

    So, where’s the medal for Gleick? And where’s the outrage and prosecution of those who are putting all of us, and our innocent children, and so on, clearly in harm’s way?

    Finally, where is the leadership that American elected, and sent to Washington, with the tacit (if not legal) obligation to protect us?

    Mother Nature, it seems, is now administering her final test to humans. The exam hour is almost up. And because we’ve been playing ‘nice’ while evil prevails, most Americans haven’t even begun.

    It’s time to look for ways to act and cooperate that will ‘encourage’ those who are now running the show to look out for the greater good, rather than for their own good.

    R. Shamel

  95. adelady says:

    So the Sharks and Jets are having a rumble in the playground and the Sharks are using motorcycle chains and knives on the unarmed Jets but one of the Jets has the temerity to throw a handful of sand into the face of one of the Sharks and Mr. Revkin calls “Foul play, sir, foul play!”?

    I despair, I really do despair…

    Wish I’d written that. It’s a comment from

    And I agree with everyone else who says Peter Gleick should sleep easy.

  96. David B. Benson says:

    I have yet to discover what, if anything, Peter Gleick did that was actually wrong. I don’t know the law in any sense more than anyone else but I doubt any of his reported acts are actionable in a court of law. I certainly think all his acts were moral, by my standards. The only question might be the ethics of impersonation. I’d like an ethicist to weigh in, but my understanding is that in some forms of investigation it is rather common.

    So what, actually, did Peter Gleick do that was wrong?

    The result, to my mind, places Peter Gleick in the pantheon of my heroes [some of whom are otherwise rather deeply flawed].

  97. R. Shamel says:

    Thanks for posting this link. Very interesting and somber reading–a call to action for those who care about our future.

  98. Brian R Smith says:

    Whatever Peter Glick’s perception of the risks to himself for knowingly departing so far from professional behavior, we can assume he fully understood and considered them first – and then chose the courageous path. This was a conscious decision that potential harms to himself were secondary to the need to nail these idiots in their nest, and that is true conviction in the face of personal sacrifice. And I agree with everyone here who says that the net result of his actions – for the cause of climate reality – is positive, and probably won’t go to legal consequences for him. Acts of courage like this that stir the pot make new directions possible.

    But this battle is ramping up daily, the stakes are getting higher and , measured by negative legislative gains, Presidential non-commitment and continuing confusion in the public about the climate crisis, few would argue at this point that the disinformation machine isn’t in firm control of the political field.

    A friend told me today that her colleague at EPA reports that Obama recently came to EPA in privacy and told senior staff he regrettably could not give them more open support because his “hands are tied”.

    We need to remember and focus on the prize, what Peter Glick and Joe and every leader in the climate movement is trying to achieve:
    an informed, motivated majority of American voters who can defeat scores of Congressional climate deniers in November, clear the way for Obama to give backbone his best shot and overwhelmingly support evidence-based policy. It’s the reason for, Shawn Otto’s Science Debates concept, Al Gores work, CAP’s work and every local campaign.

    If that’s the goal, I don’t see that all the ongoing efforts put together can possibly add up to success – precisely because they are not put together. The resources of the climate community are vastly greater than the opposition’s. So far, this hasn’t led to the kind of collaboration that can turn the tide. So if this is indeed a PR fight I would like to see discussion here on how to conduct it with a high probability of success in the time we have. About nine months.

    My take: There has to be a major presentation on climate & energy to the nation with climate scientists in the fore, unequivocally establishing consensus. It should be a prime time event, more than one day, that addresses clean energy economics & jobs, climate impacts, Washington climate politics, the anti-science club, the moral responsibility to act, biodiversity loss, security… Everything on the table at once. On as many televisions and campuses as possible. Grab the stage. Well planned followup at the precinct level, etc. It can happen. The money is there. The voices are there. Imagine the impact this would have on the conversation.

  99. a face in the clouds says:

    Keep picking at the scab.

  100. Alex 77 says:

    Thank you Joe for this story’s prologue reviewing the ethical crimes and history as lie factory which describe the Heartland Institute. Vital context for understanding Peter Gleick’s actions.

    PG understands the knife fight that climate science communications has become, and refused to participate in the unilateral disarmament for climate scientists that groups like Heartland promote and enforce. His error was strategically stupid and mildly ethically problematic, but we can all be assured that it will be conflated into a crime of 9/11 or Holocaust proportions by deniers and much of the media.

    It is so agonizing dispiriting to watch Heartland ceaselessly flourish. No amount of revealed deceit or skullduggery or purchased advocacy seems to damage the reputation or media power of denier groups – HI, CEI, AEI, Heritage, CoC, AFP, etc. It is so transparently obvious that these groups exist to take money from various financial interests to craft persuasive ideological and faux-academic arguments for their funders’ preferred policy positions. They never debate in good faith, their stance and ferocity never waver.

    A way must be found to make the media consuming public understand, on an emotional level, that any position or information coming from groups such as these is absolutely counterfeit. The Heartland docs should have been an adequate basis to form this narrative.
    When the Heartland document release occurred last weeek, I was of course disgusted but unsurprised by what I read, but also recall a sense of dread that “this is exactly the type of PR battle that Heartland exists to dominate.” It is their entire product and reason for existence, actually. What should have become a powerful tool for climate realists to discredit their opponents has, not at all to my surprise, been spun and reframed into a bludgeon to further corrupt the ethical reputation of climate scientists, and AGW in general.

    It is also disheartening that the leadership in the climate realism communication is so non-coordinated as for something to happen. Get your s#$% together – too much study and passion and effort goes into getting this right. Don’t go sending generals into the battlefield on dangerous solo missions. Damn agonizing to watch Gleick apologize, and I dread what is to come. Reminds me of Anthony Weiner’s implosion, once a rare pugilist and champion of progressive causes, extremely inspiring and motivating, but colleagues dismissed any association with him and ran no defense. Peter Gleick should not go down the same way.

  101. Mike Roddy says:

    Good one, Ben, and it’s nice to hear from you here.

  102. Mike Roddy says:

    Investigative journalism, along with telling truth to power, are lost arts. Media executives are afraid of them, and no longer hire decent ones. This is one reason why our situation is so dangerous.

  103. a face in the clouds says:

    Gleick should have taken a clue from some of Heartland’s supporters and purchased a fake ID kit or law enforcement badge from a paramilitary catalog.

    In the meantime, the needle on my BS monitor has shot passed Guffaw, ROFL and Howling Dogs. Oh to be a fly on the BS that Heartland has tracked right back into its own house.

  104. dorlomin says:

    Part of the Heartland story does not make sense. Who gives company documents to someone who dails in and asks for it to be sent to a strange email address?

    In a company of that size who does not know the voices of the senior people?

    They have the weakest security in the world, if it were that weak the 419ers would have had the contents of their bank accounts years ago.

  105. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    “Only when the last tree cut down,
    the last river poisoned, the last fish is caught,
    people will see that you money
    can not eat.”
    The Canadian Cree tribe of Indians

    When I first heard this it just seemed so utterly ridiculous, now it sounds ominously prophetic. Is the age of shopping all but done?

  106. Andy Olsen says:

    This is what I am thinking. So he lied to a liar about a very important subject where the other side lies routinely, daily.

    Is lying to a liar in defense of civilization a vice?

    Likewise, is it wrong to steal from a thief? Oh, probably, but I get less worked about it.

  107. Andy Olsen says:

    In our twisted and corrupt political culture, lying to a liar considered a bad rotten terrible thing.

    Using a campaign of lies to obstruct action to avoid massive destruction and death, however, is considered no outrage at all.

    Something is really wrong with that value system. Maybe Revkin can explain it. (Has he displayed any outrage toward the professional liars?)

  108. Joe Romm says:

    Your comment here is baffling. First off, I said you had “zero credibility in making these attacks,” which is quite different than having zero credibility on everything.

    Second, nothing Gavin says there affects his hefty credibility, even if I don’t necessarily agree with every single word he writes here. Nor does his statement even match up with your post. Sorry.

    You have missed the entire point of my post and much of Gavin’s point. Gleick made a serious lapse in professional judgment and ethics. He admitted it and I agree with that assessment.

    What has Gavin done to undermine his credibility? Nothing. What have you done in respect to the issues involved here? I’ve laid it out above.

    You are standing behind your publishing unattributed gossip? Seriously? Is that in the NYT manual?

  109. Mike Roddy says:

    You have a good idea, Brian, but I’m not sure that you realize how much money is needed. Yes, we need a full court press on television, a week long or weekly program, if possible.

    There was a time when PBS filled that role. Now, David Koch is a major contributor, plugging that possible leak. Unfortunately, PBS executives have shown no courage here.

    This means that someone has to step up and pay for a big block of network television time. Advertisers would support it, but the networks won’t, for two reasons: they would have to cancel one of their lucrative prime time programs, and their auto and fossil fuel associated advertisers would be upset.

    Your idea is possible, but make sure that you come armed with a big bankroll if you want to make it happen.

  110. Mike Roddy says:

    I’m with you on this, David. Gleick performed an important public service.

    My guess is that his apology was driven by pressure from supporters and lawyers of his institute, as well as veiled economic threats from the oil companies. Let’s hope that he stands up to them, even if his organization is crippled as a result.

  111. I totally agree with you ,,how responsible are we as a society to dump all this mess on our children and grand-children for a few dollars..human being now are worst than caveman and cave woman..evn with all that technology

  112. Wyvern says:

    You raise an interesting point…

    It might be worth Gleick’s and his legal defense’s efforts to pre-emptively issue a “do not destroy” notice to Heartland.

    It could both cover his back, and put the heebies up Heartland.

  113. Mike Roddy says:

    I must disagree with Andy, Joe, and Gavin in your assessments here, especially with Gavin’s opinion that this event diminishes Gleick and the public dialogue. Tut-tutting about Gleick’s minor ethical lapse diminishes the importance of the information he revealed.

    Let’s look at two examples: “Climategate”, which offended Andy’s morality, was a black ops operation which purloined private emails, so that they could be displayed out of context. Nobody has been punished, the ongoing investigation appears to be cursory, and the press rarely criticizes the perpetrators.

    Gleick merely passed on internal documents which should have been public anyway, since Heartland receives taxpayer support. I am mystified by both Peter’s apology and sermons from serious students of climate (which Andy Revkin is not).

    Recall the Pentagon Papers, which Daniel Ellsburg, a Defense Department employee, released to the New York Times. It revealed a vast inventory of lies, hypocrisy, self seeking, and warmongering by people who are supposed to be “protecting” us. The documents were classified, so Ellsburg, unlike Gleick, violated federal law, and was arrested, as I recall.

    Ellsburg became a hero, and still is, for exposing the inner rot at the policymaker level of our long nightmare in Vietnam.

    Gleick, for documenting equal levels of corruption and disinformation, deserves the same unqualified support. Andy, of course, is hopeless, but Joe and Gavin, you need to see the bigger picture here.

  114. Joe Romm says:

    I didn’t say I agree with every word Gavin wrote. But I do agree that “his voice as an advocate of science, once powerful, has now been diminished.” I rather think that inarguably.

  115. Leif says:

    So soon we forget about the “Acorn” take down when Right wingers impersonated prostitutes and pimps, but I guess those folks are not people, so impersonation is cool.

  116. For people who’d like to understand the background issue of investigative reporting ethics in the widely-acknowledged gray area of the use of impersonation to obtain information, here are a couple of postings – predating discussion of Peter Gleick’s actions and apology – from an independent, relatively authoritative source:

    Lying in the Name of Truth: When Is It Justified for Journalists? – Poynter, 2007.0705
    Bob Steele, Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values

    Deception/Hidden Cameras Checklist – Poynter, 2002.0705
    Bob Steele, The Poynter Institute

  117. PeterW says:

    I agree Robert, I can’t get my head around why it’s okay for an investigative journalist to do this, and not okay for anyone else.

  118. Dennis says:

    The fact is we wouldn’t need the Gavin Schmidt’s of this world blogging about what is and is not science if the professional journalists out there who cover it for a living did their job and clearly distinguished fact (peer reviewed climate research) from fiction (Heartland Institute) in their reporting.

  119. Laurie Dougherty says:

    Evidently Gleick used the actual name of someone well known to Heartland to obtain the documents, so it seems that that is probably illegal. I consider it something of an act of civil disobedience in which someone breaks a law either in the interest of a higher moral good (as in this case) or to challenge the law itself. It has a long and honorable history and acts of civil disobedience are performed with knowledge that there may well be consequences. Facing those consequences takes the kind of integrity and courage that Gleick has shown.

    As for Dot Earth, I was there from the very beginning and had high hopes for it. I did not think that comments should be censored there as it is a quasi-public space. (In this case Andy said he was out of town and an overwhelmed editor closed comments.) But there is a responsibility to stand up for truth and reality and to expose lies and distortions. I and many other regular commenters spent huge amounts of time digging into climate change deniers lies and confronting them in Dot Earth comments. I and many other regular commenters spent huge amounts of time challenging Andy Revkin to call out the lies and liars and to expose the damage the deniers are doing. After a while all I was doing was blowing out my blood pressure over Andy’s out beyond the looking glass meanderings. So I only sporadically bother with Dot Earth any more. Dot Earth is a waste of very valuable digital space and I have said that there.

  120. Chris Winter says:


    I look at Web design skills too, and have mentioned them here several times. Poor HTML practice seems to go hand-in-hand with poor understanding (or no understanding) of climate change. And I agree that Watts’s ZEV2Go page shouts poor design. (“charset=windows-1252”? please, no…)

    To be fair, he is probably prohibited from using HI money for that page. However, you would think he could at least scrape up a few hundred dollars to pay some high-school student, who would undoubtedly do a better job than what shows now.

  121. Robert says:

    As someone who deals with communicating climate change on a daily basis, this circus is unquestionably going to make my life harder. And I must admit to a significant level of aggrevation — first, with Gleick’s initially flawed choice; second with his decision to make it worse with a mea culpa.

    But as I consider all of this further, I’m going to keep one thing firmly in the front of my mind: Gleick’s conduct arose not from the ether, but amidst the unrelenting and massive levels of malice, cynacism, deceit and treachery raining onto the climate science community from Heartland and their ilk. These organizations and their puppet masters are pure poison. If Gleick acted imperfectly, he did so under the sustained and intensifying pressure of an unrelenting storm of intimidation, badgering and bullying that these incredibly destructive people have wrought.

    I’m annoyed with Gleick, but he’s one of the good guys. I’m reserving my wrath for where it truly belongs…

  122. Robert says:

    As for Revkin, I’ve long since stopped paying attention to him. His coverage of climate science in particular has made it clear to me that his poor understanding of the enterprise of science is his constant handicap. His blog is a consistent exercise in inappropriate equivalency.

    The National Academies apparently disagree. But I note that their expertise is in doing science, not communicating it. I find their assessement of Revkin amateur and unconvincing.

  123. Robert says:

    With great respect for Gavin Schmidt, he’s got it wrong here. To my eye, the vast majority of people for whom Gleick’s voice is now diminished… never listened to him anyway.

    I suspect that for many others, like myself, who do science and value integrity — Gleick’s voice is in no way diminished.

    He disseminated important information in the public interest, first verifying it’s authenticity. Any squeemishness about the manner in which he induced the lying, cheating scoundrels to show the cards up their sleeves is pious nonsense.

  124. ltr says:

    Joe, again having considered, I agree with you. This post was important for me.

  125. Chris Winter says:

    Mr. Revkin: are you in good health? Your comment here suggests otherwise. You performed a valuable service in documenting the attempted suppression of climate science observations during the GW Bush administration, as detailed by Mark Bowen in Censoring Science. But here you respond to Gavin Schmidt’s condemnation of Gleick’s action as if it were a mistake — when you made a very similar condemnation in your own blog post.

    Your criticizing someone for saying essentially the same thing you said is hard to understand unless it is the result of some illness.

  126. M Tucker says:

    Please search your sole and try to find a better comparison than Weiner. I think you will admit Peter Gleick’s motive was sparked by his professional dedication and his great despair at the abysmal state of the climate change debate in the US.

    Peter Gleick will still be able to continue his wonderfully informative and important work and, I think, will still be respected by most.

    Weiner’s motive was his wiener and he is a great disappointment to most if not all.

  127. Gail Zawacki says:

    I’m with Mike. I saw Gavin’s response in comments at Dot Earth and I thought, if Gleick’s effectiveness and credibility are called into question, it’s because his natural allies have abandoned him.

    Andy left it off but Gavin actually began with this:

    “Schadenfreude is a cheap thrill: fun but ephemeral.”

    So this is my comment also on my blog with some others:

    Was there any evidence that Gleick was feeling schadenfreude? Never mind. The more important point is that even prominent climate scientists and activists continue to act as if they are in denial of how serious the problem is…that can be the only explanation for Schmidt and Joe Romm, for instance, to criticize Peter Gleick. The headlines should be proclaiming the following, though only the Guardian so far that I’ve seen has even mentioned it:

    Civilisation faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems’
    Abuse of the environment has created an ‘absolutely unprecedented’ emergency, say Blue Planet prizewinners

    Their report is a warning that the world is dangerously in overshoot. We have overpopulated, overexploited resources, and overpolluted the one earth we have to the point where it is going to take drastic action to pull back from the abyss of total collapse.

    Peter Gleick understands that we are in an unprecedented emergency – of which climate change is only one aspect – and he acted accordingly.

    Anybody who doesn’t realize that we are fouling our own nest just as fast as we can – is stupid. Not only are we headed for more ever-intensifying extreme weather catastrophes, including floods, droughts and famine – but the oceans are grotesquely overfished, polluted and acidifying; we have stripped the soils, destroying their productivity by overfertilization; and the air is so filthy from noxious fumes derived from combustion of fuel and industrial processes that trees (and people, and animals and insects) are dying all over the world.

    The “experts” and pundits should stop whining about Gleick and wake the hell up.

  128. Gail Zawacki says:

    Haha, after having gone to their SICCC meeting in DC last summer, I can attest I was surprised to the extent that these people – speakers, staff and audience – are dimwits. They are merely useful idiots tor the real powers, the 0.1% overlords whose bidding they perform.

  129. David K says:

    Great post, Joe!

    It sure would be helpful if the person(s) who mailed the “Climate Strategy” to Gleick would come forward. And either confess to the “forgery” or explain how they acquired it.

  130. Leif says:

    One might even say that Peter was acting in self defense.

  131. Leif says:

    Perhaps another way to frame this dilemma and Peters roll. Is a kick to the groin of an attempting killer of you and yours justifiable self defense? “Killer” to limiting a term, how about the slow torture of you and yours? Does the rest of Humanity have any standing? Earth’s life support systems?

  132. Brian R Smith says:

    Mike, thanks for the response.

    It’s not an original idea, others have brought it up before, as I have, but as far as I know major players haven’t seriously pursued it. I am basically a foot soldier, a small town activist with few credentials for this scale of project. But I am working on a draft position paper and call for action outlining objectives/benefits of a major media effort on climate and energy as I see them, suggested structure for planning & deploying the campaign, the universe of possible participants, potential for funding, suggested timeline for action, messaging, and so on (any interest or suggestions welcome).

    I will send the draft out for comments & revision, and then in final form to an expanded list of climate leaders in science, policy, business, energy, finance, government, education and agriculture. The hope is that this will inspire enough interest to form a high level working group and an initial summit of same to plan the strategy for events.

    Because there will be large emphasis, beyond the science, on creating certainty for business and the economy going forward, I lean toward the business sector as an important ally in planning and as the major source for funding. I won’t go into all the possibilities here, but if an initial working group of top people came out with a media plan with apparent high potential for success, I think the funds would be there.

    There are a lot of climate-progressive corporations out there, many of which are already networked with each other, with government and policy groups and with NGOs. Many very wealthy individuals are approachable. Think Soros, Branson, Elon Musk. Then there are big environmental orgs with $100m + budgets and a stake in the outcome. I’m thinking an initial startup pool of $10m and another $80m to $100m to pull it off is not hard to find considering the stakes.

  133. alex says:

    Dr. Gleick has nothing to apologize for. The only apologies we should be seeing are from the Heartland Institute, their funders, and the Media-Industrial Complex that enable them.

  134. Gail Zawacki says:

    JR, in light of

    this article:

    “What you wouldn’t gather from all these pants-on-fire condemnations is that there is a long and honorable tradition, from Nellie Bly feigning madness to expose mistreatment of the mentally ill to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mirage Tavern corruption lab, of investigative journalists using false identities to gather information–when the public interest is clear, and there’s no other way to get the story.”

    I hope you will reconsider your condemnation of Peter Gleick – and so should Gavin Schmidt and any others who have condemned him. It’s important because such dilemmas will arise in the future, and whistle-blowers need to have some confidence that they will be protected and admired, not vilified and rejected.

    I think what distills the essence of the problem of judging Gleick’s actions is to consider that Gleick is BOTH a scientist, and a journalist. To make the assumption that his actions should be regarded – and disparaged – as those of a scientist who has lost integrity is simply a rather arrogant way of assuming the role of scientist erases and supersedes any other role. That could even include the role of parent, or citizen.

    Clearly, Gleick was acting as a journalist in this instance, and so he should be judged on that basis.

  135. Lucian A. Sperta says:

    regardless of what anyone says, how can we all blame ourselves for Global warming when the total truth is not being told to the people. I believe the sun is the greatest cause of this global disaster. I am not a scientist, but I see the spraying every morning of the chemtrails in the path of the sun. I see when the sun is extremely bright, and that is when they are spraying, I see it when its calm,,,no spraying, Its obvious its the sun that controls the climate on our planet, and its the one thing no one can control. Stop blaming the people, its the natural course of life, planets, its not like it has not happened before, There have been many recent discoveries of huge civilizations under water, and no one has made mentioned of them, soon, one day, our whole planet will be…..under water, we better start thinking about alternate plans and stop the BLAME GAME…

  136. Joe Romm says:

    I will not judge Gleick less harshly than he judged himself. If you call that condemnation, so be it. BUT he is not a journalist.

  137. no one in particular says:

    I think Joe and Gleick are wrong.

    In a street fight, false pretenses aren’t even close to wrong. It is fair game.

    Gleick did nothing wrong if the lowly paid clerks at Heartland send out sensitive documents wily nily, they should pay their clerks more and have a process in place to ensure trade secrets.

  138. Robert says:

    Parody? Nicely done!

  139. Robert says:

    I’m happy to judge him less harshly than he has judged himself. He’s too far in it to be objective, his judgment is compromised…

    His little identity deception seems to me the moral equivalent of tricking a bank robber with “HEY LOOK, WHAT’S OVER THERE ?!?” in order to grab his gun. (Followed by Revkin’s headline: “Bank Teller Uses Deceit to Steal Customer’s Personal Possessions”)

  140. Leif says:

    Very good links Kevin. Thank you. I would say that Peter G. not only read this but studied it.

  141. Leif says:

    Please no offense Joe, just curious. Do you consider yourself a scientist or a journalist?

  142. Aaron Reaven says:

    I am completely unconvinced that Peter Gleick did anything that requires apology. How is his action any different from the approach of an undercover journalist or whistleblower? This affair reminds me of past incidents in which the sensitivities of powerful wrongdoers were given higher priority than their giant wrongs. Examples: a) the trouble a Cincinnati reporter got into for hacking emails of a large banana corporation, while the corporate collusion with death squads that he revealed got sidelined. b) When there was more criticism of the false resume of an undercover investigator than of the feedlot abuse of animals (and resulting health threat) that he or she recorded. This moral disproportion in favor only of the most powerful wrongdoers is a dangerous sign of totalitarianism.

  143. J4zonian says:

    Gleick didn’t.

  144. J4zonian says:

    Not millions, billions.

  145. J4zonian says:

    How bout love and understanding?

    However difficult it is, and however badly we fail at it time and time again, it is the only way we will ever get them to stop before the dreaded/hoped for mythical Pearl Harbor event.They are our own shadows and projections as we are theirs, and only by engaging them in community will we ever be able to recall our own as they recall theirs.

  146. Raul M. says:

    isn’t that NOAA changed to the newer temp. data sets to show a climate trend evidence the Earth has changed to a new normal weather. Then in just 2 years the temp. Trends are already showing to the high end of the temp. Range for large areas of the US.
    My guess is that many people enjoy being morally asleep and awake in a rather rude mood.
    So sad that morality isn’t decided by such simple choices as the forefathers had available.
    So, if weather continues to warm as expected how will NOAA be able to show the change. An endless increase in the high end of the weather temp. amolity.

  147. J4zonian says:

    Please let us know if there’s anything we can help with.

  148. J4zonian says:

    I think the main result is likely to be an intensification of what’s going on now: domination of the media by denialist and he said/he said equal time nonsense. but we have to try, and not just once but repeatedly.

    Talk to the Pachamama Alliance in SF; they present on the larger crisis and have reached thousands in a more personal, interactive and affecting way than any TV show could.

  149. Steve Zwick says:

    Excellent points, Mr. Shamel. Ironically, I spent Monday at Auschwitz, and spent much of the evening discussing the Holocaust with friends of mine in Krakow. Our conversation turned to the banality of evil, and the complicity of those who did nothing to stop that tragedy, and the means that would have been justified to prevent it.

  150. dan bloom says:

    ATOMIC TYPO, JOE, re ”But Gleick is right that he committed a serious lapse of *my* professional judgment and ethics. He is right to regret his actions and make a personal apology.”

    SHOULD BE and you meant to type:

    But Gleick is right that he committed a serious lapse of HIS professional judgment and ethics. He is right to regret his actions and make a personal apology.

  151. Wyvern says:

    Hear, hear.

    Just as it was in the past heretical to stand up for emancipation, racial and gender equality, environmental protection, non-invasion of a country that patently had no WMDs, etc, in hindsight it will be obvious that we should have all stood up and shouted our lungs out about our delay on reducing co2 emissions.

    Peter did the morally correct, if somewhat legally fuzzy, thing.

  152. Joe Romm says:


  153. Tom King says:

    Embrace the circus. Juggle better than the juggler, clown more than the clown.

  154. Wyvern says:

    There’s another part of Revkin’s comment that is baffling, that Joe did not touch upon:

    There is an integrity required to do science (and talk about it credibly), and he has unfortunately failed this test.

    What Peter Gleick did neither compromises his ability to “do science” with integrity, nor does it compromise his ability to “talk about [science] credibly”.

    Gleick’s decision to pierce through Heartland’s obfuscations of science as he did may be morally hazy to some, but that is a separate thing to how he performs his science. Likewise, Gleick’s decision to pierce through Heartland’s obfuscations of science does not affect his capacity to talk about science credibly: his decision to expose Heartland is separate from his capacity to communicate science.

    I think that what Revkin wanted to say is that Gleick has hurt his ability to be taken seriously by some. However, accepting the validity of what someone communicates/talks about is different to their capacity to say something with validity, which is, after all, what credibility should pertain to in this matter. Only people who are ignorant of science would confabulate the two notions.

    If one doubts this, consider the case of Monckton. He is granted credibility by many, but his pronouncements on climate science (leave alone medical science…) are completely and utterly scientifically invalid.

    Leave alone Gleick – Revkin himself has shown very poor judgement in this whole matter. A journalist of his perceived stature should not be making such profound errors of meaning, nor should he be making the presumptions of ruin and of extreme unethical action, as Revkin made in his original piece.

    A number of years ago I had some regard for Revkin, but he seems to have taken up the sport of shark jumping, just as a certain former New Scientist journalist did (to the point where I terminated a decades-long subscription with NS), and just as a certain flea-covered atmospheric scientist did. As a consequence of this latest debacle of Revkin’s, he has completely forfieted any remaining standing that he might have had with me, and I suspect that there is a huge proportion amongst my scientific colleagues who would agree.

    Whatever Revkin’s motivation is, I hope that his slide into mainstream hysterical navel-gazing is worth having taken his eye off the stonking great boulder that is still thundering downhill straight toward humanity and its only biosphere in the entire universe.

  155. Wyvern says:


    MODERATOR, that last post by ‘Wyvern’ was supposed to be posted under my name – Bernard J. Wyvern is a colleague who used my laptop to comment earlier in the day, and I didn’t realise the name and email fields were still set to his details until after I posted.

    If it’s possible I’d be obliged if you could change the name attached to the previous post. This post of course is irrelevant to the thread’s discussion and should be binned.

  156. Leif says:

    I realize I am being presumptuous here, being neither, but I see very little that separates a scientist from a journalist. A good scientist attempts to shed light on natural systems following in the footsteps of those long gone, secure in the fact that each did the best they could with the facts at hand. Mistakes are made and new avenues of inquiry may reveal that paradigm shifts in thinking are required. Scientists are bond to follow reproducible facts where they lead. Cherry picking data will only lead to flawed results and conclusions. A democratic society in order to flourish needs exactly the same dedication from its journalists to remain viable. Our forefathers realized that and built a special place for a free and open press within the constitution to assure that outcome. At times codes must be transgressed for the well being of the whole. If an airplane is being produced with a faulty part do you not have a duty to the whole to bring that knowledge to the attention of the people even if all the authorities cannot be trusted? Even if you must stoop to questionable procedures to accomplish the goal? Both as a journalist and a scientist? And let the pieces fall where they may.

    Lenard Cohan, “Anthum”:
    “Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in…
    That’s how the light gets in…”

  157. Bernard J. says:

    Imagine if scientists identified a near-earth object that was calculated to collide with the planet in, say, a century, and that the collision would imperil much of human society, and of biodiverity in general.

    Imagine that the best scientists said we could avoid the collision, but that we would need global cooperation and that we would need to act now, in order to construct the technological wherewithal to remove the endangering object.

    The story would be front page news everywhere, all the time. And yes, there’d be deniers, but in this case there’d likely be no serious opposition to adopting a war footing, no matter the cost to societies around the world.

    The difference? There’d be no major player around whose vested interest conflicted with taking action.

    Other than that, the fundamental bases and results of that scenario and of global warming are pretty much the same.

  158. Susan Anderson says:

    It’s been done at least once before:

    “‘Earth 2100’: Is this the Final Century of Our Civilization?”

    Perhaps Podesta’s organization would be willing to have another go. It was pretty much cut dead by most (including our “side”), a two-hour primetime presentation by ABC.

  159. Dallas Dunlap says:

    The Heartland strategy is quite cunning. Had they disputed all the documents, nobody would have believed them. By admitting that all but one of the documents were real, but claiming that one was fake, they placed Gleick in an untenable position.
    Gleick couldn’t prove the authenticity of the strategy memo, and he gave up his anonymity to assert that the documents that he got from Heartland were the same as the ones he received from the whistleblower. But, by admitting that he verified the docs through trickery, he gave Heartland a hammer to beat his credibility.
    Gleick acted heroically in outing himself, but he’s been trying to wrestle with a snake.

  160. Solar Jim says:

    Mulga, your talent for protesting globalized injustice is a light in a dark world. However, may I suggest that you reconsider your description “totalitarian ideology . . . .of market fundamentalist capitalism.”

    The last thing on earth that the economics of fossil fuel, as well as uranium, involves is any kind of fundamental market capitalism. Uranium fission, for example, is indemnified from free-market risk assessment. Otherwise, it is not economically feasible in a “market economy.”

    While capitalism has many faults, the four materials (coal, petroleum, fossil methane, uranium) are the basis of mechanized weapon systems for nation-states and associated monopolistic finance, not true market enterprise. Besides being heavily subsidized by nation-states (including militarily), they are ingrained as the very basis for mechanized warfare. Call it corrupt belligerent state-capitalism or something else, but “market capitalism” has not existed since at least the last world war. Whether capitalism is a conceptual failure or not, fuel capitalism certainly does not apply. It is centrally planned.

  161. Brian R Smith says:

    J4zonian, thanks.
    Are you with Pachamama Alliance?

  162. Susan Anderson says:

    Let’s keep the facts straight. We have no reason to disbelieve Dr. Gleick and he says he was given the possible forgery and got the others by his stratagem, and sent them around to see if they were likely/probable/real.

    What I regret most is the loss of his voice. He is obviously going to suffer a great deal, and Heartland very little, which is just wrong.

  163. Leif says:

    Put your self in Peter Gleick’s shoes a moment. You receive a package from an anonymous source that has revealing information on a serious issue for humanity. It has all the appearances of being authentic but is seeded with a poison pill. Your reputation is at stake but more importantly if true the survival of the species and trillions of dollars continuing to fall into undeserving hands. What do you do? (I assume Peter did not seed it which does not pass the smell test if pursued, but does if you want to bring down Peter.) If you sit on those papers you cannot sleep forever more if they are true. If false and you bring them to the authorities and the pill is found, which is a given, you are doomed and your cause blackened forever. Ultimate victory for the opposition! Demise of humanity! Still with me? You decide to take a risky option, yet the only avenue for redemption, and assume the identity of a company head and ask for a copy of the original documents to be sent to you, and low and behold receive them, minus the “pill.” Now you have something that you can go to the authorities with, and do. Though the “pill” does not necessarily implicate the original sender as your main nemesis but does imply a third person involved, and not you. Caught with their pants down, the sender must double down and continue to throw red herrings and hope something sticks… That is where the denier sphere come into play.

  164. David Lewis says:

    Nick Stern, lead author of the Stern Review, had this to say about the Gleick/Heartland issue when questioned by a reporter during the Q&A after a recent lecture at the London School of Economics:

    “The Heartland Institute? I don’t think that’s a very important question quite honestly. I think that scientists… should get on and do decent solid serious research and try to do it on issues that count and share their ideas in a productive way. That’s what really matters and I think the tawdry stories of who hacked into whom when and just how dodgy it looked when they hacked in – I think they’re diversions from serious discussion. We have to ask ourselves what are the big policy issues. And I hope you as a reporter will focus in what you do on these subjects about what are the big policy issues and not simply on who looked through whose window in the night. I just don’t think that’s a very good way of proceeding.”

  165. Jeffrey Levine says:

    “What Gleick did was wrong and Gleick not only knows it, he admitted it and apologized…”

    The rightness or wrongness of Peter Gleick’s actions must be evaluated according to the principles of Utilitarianism, as outlined by Bentham and Mill in the 19th century. In this regard, it barely relevant whether Romm or Revkin, or even Gleick himself believe it to be wrong.

    The relevant metric is the net impact on the welfare of humankind in a broad perspective. It’s hard to imagine this will not be positive, considering the potential “ripple effect”.

    It could galvanize and embolden the scientific community to be more proactive and aggressive in standing behind their work.

    It could discourage ideologues (whether corporate or private) from supporting such nefarious enterprises as the Heartland Institute.

    It could lead to the unraveling of the Heartland Institute itself (Ugh! Even typing that disingenuous name gives me the creeps!), which has been a major initiator of AGW Denialist misinformation.

    It could weaken the viability of “Anthony” and his WattsUpWithThat site.

    If nothing else, it has cast a stark light on “how sausage is made” in the sordid world of AGW Denialism.

    These questions will only be answered with time. As tempting as it may be, any ‘rush to judgment’ is premature.

  166. MikeB says:

    Nick Stern spoke like a true gent.. and someone who has no clue as to what everyone is up against. If Revkin and co. had done a decent job of reporting on Heartland et al, then scientists could just get on with their job.

    However, since the fourth estate is obviously incapable of actually reporting properly on those denier organisations and those who fund them, scientists not only have to speak up, but actually go looking for the kind of information that will expose the deniers.

    If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Sad that its turned out that way.

  167. Lionel A says:

    ‘Gleick’s actions were completely irresponsible…’

    How you can write that with a straight pen is unfathomable. It seems to me you no longer see shades of grey and are incapable of providing a nuanced comparison between Gleick’s actions and those of the CRU hacker or even of Heartland’s own machinations.

    Perhaps you will fit right in at ‘The Curry Wing’ of ‘The Heartland Club’.

  168. P.F. Henshaw says:

    I wish the real issues would get to the top of these things. We’re assuming we know what we’re doing. The evidence is we clearly don’t, as Kolbert points out asking why “a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself”.

    There are clear structural reasons for the failure to respond to climate change, that get missed when you haven’t studied how growth systems work.

    The growth imperative is contained in the economy’s original design, and **even Keynes** pointed out that his design for it would run out of time, that continuing to stimulate it would make it financially unstable.

    That’s the ghost in the machine, the one nobody of any importance is paying the least bit of attention to. Browse my blog for a range of ideas and pointers to it from many sides.

  169. GreenHearted says:

    Hey, maybe we could all write to Heartland under assumed names and ask for the documents. That way, Gleick won’t be alone and “they” won’t know where to begin.

    “They” are dangerous people who are quite willing to say ANYfreakingTHING about us, but if all we’re risking is our reputations (while others are losing their lives and their livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes and their entire homelands), then it’s not a lot to lose in comparison.

  170. John Hartz says:

    Jim Naureckas at the FAIR Blog puts this matter into proper perspective in his post, “Media’s Weird Ethics: Pretending to Be Someone Else Is Worse Than Facilitating Global Catastrophe.”

  171. SmilingAhab says:

    We can’t sue them, because their army of lawyers would dance circles around us.

    We can’t protest them because their friends own the media, and the apathy and overemotional hatred they’ve created over the idea of AGCI is hard to pierce. Hell, we’ve been protesting them for years.

    We can’t pass any sort of law because they would just have it stricken down in whatever courts or congresses they don’t own.

    We can’t even kill them. They’re layered behind security that makes foreign ministries look like outposts, and actually getting to them would, thanks to our backwards vestigial backfire effect, actually reaffirm their denialist message.

    All of these take money, and they’ve designed a system where only the most sociopathic amongst us are rewarded with the tools of power.

    I guess the only real way to fight them is a mix of all of the above, and a think-tank of psychologists to re-hash our message so that people don’t just drown it out when Faux keeps up with the cognitive dissonance. I wish I knew.

  172. SmilingAhab says:

    Because require denotes the idea of “should”, which denotes some sort of morality. People like HI play by only one rule: do as thou wilt. Who cares if he’s trying to save humanity from itself? All that matters is he’s on the defensive and going to lose!

  173. SmilingAhab says:

    Never. The end of the age of shopping will be the end of the age of carbon-based life.

  174. SmilingAhab says:

    A physical thing with an absolute impact deadline is not the same as a continuing series of distortions in global climate heterostasis. One is absolute, the other is a phenomenon. Humans overestimate our own rational prowess. Things have always been easier to grasp than states of being.